.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Hi. I'm trying to think of another description to put here. Any ideas? I'll try again at 420.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

People from all walks of life...

...live in nursing homes. I've cared for housewives, businessmen, ex-boxers, countless veterans and even the Grand Dragon (or whatever they call them) of the Ku Klux Klan. Every one of them has things to say and if you're lucky enough to be in the company of any of them, you can hear some amazing stories, first hand from the people who were there.

I've listened to old soldiers tell stories about every war from WWI to Viet Nam. I've cared for old doctors and nurses who told me stories about how they cared for people without penicillin. I've spoken to teachers who taught in one room school houses. I sometimes think that I remember a lot of history...these folks were here well before I was so they remember a heck of a lot more than I do.

Wherever they come from, they are interesting people with lifetimes of experiences and varying personalities. They're someone's mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter. They were, at one time, busy building the country that we now live in. Some of them are aware of their surroundings, some are not.

The people who have the capacity to remember when they felt useful now feel useless. Even some confused old people remember the need to work and feel valuable. I remember two ladies who shared a room and wanted to be useful so they would spend the entire night taking short naps and then getting up and making each other's bed. I wanted to make them REALLY happy and take them home with me. I'd let them clean house as much as they wanted.

I can't tell you how many times a man or woman has approached me at the nurses station, asking if they could fill out an application for employment. They tell me all of the skills that they have and where they used to work.

Sometimes I can give an old secretary a pen and pad of paper and she'll go sit down and take shorthand. I don't know what she writes about, but it makes her feel as though she's doing something.

The people who are now old enough to be in nursing homes come from a time when pride wouldn't allow them to take charity. They may be confused, but they still remember their pride and the ethic of paying their own way.

At dinnertime, some people need to be reminded to go to the dining room to eat. Or, they might need assistance getting in bed. Many times they tell me that they have no money to pay for their meal or for their room. I have to remind them that their children have already paid for them. They don't like that much better.

An old farmer may be too confused to toilet himself but he can gently hold an infant in his arms, somehow remembering that he is the stronger of the two and must be gentle with the baby.

Confusion can take many things away from a person. But it's amazing what remains. A lady too confused to realize that she's in a nursing home still remembers how to take shorthand. A gentleman who has no idea what town he's in still remembers that he has to pay for his keep. Men too confused to tell you their name still remember that they must behave like gentlemen.

Rare is the person who is too confused to remember the pleasure of being around another person. No matter how totally brain damaged some people may be, they can almost always grasp your hand when you hold it. An old lady who takes her dinner and spreads it all over her face may not remember her manners all the time, but she will always remember that she enjoys visits from her children. An old man who may just sit and stare for most of the day will still smile and welcome his grand-children onto his lap. These people may or may not know who it is that comes to visit them, but it doesn't really matter. They're always happy to have a visit. They may not remember the visit 10 minutes after it's over, but for the time that they were visiting, they were happy.

I find it fascinating that these people keep so much of themselves, even after so much is gone. They hold on to their dignity through so much that you have to be impressed with how much dignity they had in the first place. It would be so easy for our country to make good use of our elderly. It would be smart of us to start now. In the next few years, the numbers of elderly are going to rise dramatically as the Baby Boomers all start to....that's right boys and girls...GET OLD!



Post a Comment

<< Home